Pre-Match Press Conference: Tony Gustavsson & Alanna Kennedy | Uzbekistan v CommBank Matildas

CommBank Matildas Head Coach Tony Gustavsson spoke to the press alongside defender Alanna Kennedy at the official Matchday Minus One press conference in the lead-up to the first leg of the AFC Olympic Qualifiers (Third Round) against Uzbekistan.

The squad touched down in Dubai to commence a training camp on Monday.

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“Five days into camp the players are in a really good spot mentally and physically,” Gustavsson began. “We see the same picture today in the 11-a-side in training, it looked phenomenal. So I have a really, really good feeling going into the game tomorrow.”

The weather in Uzbekistan is expected to be cold, with temperatures reaching around -5 degrees Celcius. Gustavsson emphasised that his side would focus on the controllables, and play their way despite the environment.

“The one thing I know for sure with these players is that it doesn’t matter the circumstances around them when they step on the field, they always give it 100,” he said, “no matter the pitch, the rain, the wind, the weather.”

“They’ve played in very different weather before and obviously I have my sports science and medical team that do a tremendous job in terms of acclimatisation and you know, whether it’s nutrition or whether it’s recovery or training load or prepping for weather as well, so I’m sure we’re going to be well prepared once the game kicks off.”

The tight turnaround between the two games is another factor that could play a role in the matches – but Gustavsson said that his side were well and truly prepared.

“As footballers, it’s something that we’re very used to, particularly being from Australia,” he explained.

“I know once we step off that plane and come to Australia that the players will be as prepared as they can. But I also know another thing they’re going to get so refuelled and energised by the fans coming back to play at home, sold-out, and that is going to compensate for a lot of lack of energy for travel.”

Kennedy said that training had been at a good standard and that she was looking forward to the challenge of Uzbekistan.

“As Tony said we had a really good pregame session this morning, everyone felt sharp or looked sharp and the intensity was really good,” she began.

“We know that to have made it as far as Uzbekistan is obviously a team of good quality. I think for us, it’ll be about being patient. I’m sure that we’ll find them in a bit of a block at different points in the game and just be patient with our game plan, and clinical with the moments that we do get up top. It’s definitely a challenge ahead but we’re well prepared for it.”

Gustavsson emphasised team identity for these two games – that no matter who steps out on the pitch, the CommBank Matildas will retain their unique identity.

“We have a tremendous amount of respect for the opposition, but we’re going to bring our game and who we are as a team,” he stressed.

“And I’m not talking about formation when I talk about who we are, I’m talking about the principle of how we play. We’re always going to be a pressing team. We’re always going to be a high-octane team that likes to attack with numbers.”

“Patience and tempo are key in games like this and also have tools from the games to affect the game with good game changers.”

Finally, the Australians were asked about new and returning faces to the squad. Chloe Logarzo is one who has returned to the CommBank Matildas after a long absence through injury.

“[Logarzo had] a very happy face and a lot of hugs from teammates when she came in and it was well deserved as well,” Gustavsson said. “I know what a tough journey she’s going through.”

“And I also have to credit her professionalism in the way she supported the team throughout the World Cup, being that disappointed not being selected and be there for the teammates, be there for the team the way she was. So it almost felt like she was part of the team in the World Cup even though she was not in the roster.

“That for me is professionalism, caring about the team no matter if you play or sit in the stands or on the bench. That’s a true team player.”

Some of the new players in camp have been meeting members of the squad for the first time. One of those was Katelyn Torpey, who fellow defender Kennedy was very complimentary of.

“She’s come in and done really well,” Kennedy said. “I think she’s one of those players who has adapted to the level quite quickly, and quite a mature head on her shoulders as well.”

“She’s come in and held her own and yeah, she’s done really well and deserves her spot.”

How to watch tonight's game in Australia and around the world.

Uzbekistan v Australia
Date: Saturday, 24 February 2024
Kick-off: 2.00pm (local) / 8.00pm AEDT
Venue: Milliy Stadium, Tashkent
Broadcast: Live from 7.00pm AEDT on 10, 10 Play and Paramount+.